T Nation

Does Current BF% Affect Lbm Gain?


Hey all. Just thought I would bring up a point of discussion that there might be some differing opinions on. Does the body fat % that you are at affect the lean body mass / fat gain ratio during a bulk?

From Chris Shugart:
I just wasn't lean enough to bulk! I am now. Lean individuals gain less fat and more muscle when overfeeding when compared to their fatter counterparts

From Prox X:
I personally think this is complete bullshit and would love for soemone to prove to me that you somehow gain more body fat if your starting is 15% than if it is 10% if all other factors are the same. That body fat percentage number is possibly the most abused piece of info in the gym next the home phone numbers of the girls working the front desk.

So, it'd be nice to see what peoples opinions on this are and what studies they have to back them up. Also, ProfX wasn't criticizing Shugart, I pulled the quotes from different threads.


I believe Berardi wrote something about this, I'm not sure what article but you could try looking at some of his writings.

The gist of it was you should be around 10% or lower to start bulking to get the best lean muscle gains.

For example bulking up 20lbs from a higher bodyfat percentage would give 10lbs muscle, 10lbs fat. But, bulking up 20lbs from a lower bodyfat would give 15lbs muscle, 5lbs fat.

Note these numbers aren't exact, they are just illustrating an example.

Personally I think it would be best to diet down somewhat, get your 'set point' at a lower bodyfat, then bulk up. If you're going to bulk up from a "bulked up" state already, well, there is going to be a whole lot longer dieting afterwards to get down to where you want to be.


yes, according to Berardi if you start bulking with low bf % you will gain mostly muscle, if you start bulking when you are fat you will gain mostly fat.


What is he basing this off of? I'm not sure there's enough evidence to making claims like this.

I don't really have an opinion and don't see how any could unless they personally tried both ways themselves.


Yeah, I have no idea what he gets this info from. I started (christmas 2005) at 125 with 14-15%bf and am now around 180 with 14%bf. It would seem to me Berardi threw that out there without any real backing.

In the end, bf% doesn't matter. It's how you look in the mirror, at the club, in public, whatever.


I say yes it does. But not the way you think.

I find that with me anyway I cannot add a good amount of LBM and/or strength until I am at a higher BF% mid to highish teems 13-18% before that Im just beating a dead horse bustin ass in the gym making VERY slow gains and not eating for performance or even comfort.

Once at that higher BF then I can add on lean mass and strength at a fairly steady pace without going much if any higher but I need that fat there before the intake will be allowed to go to building muscle.

Thats my take,



Dr. B based his recommendations on a) a number of studies that he had reviewed and b) a review article by G.B. Forbes that analyzed data from several studies.

It's the last question and topic in this thread:


Hope this helps.



Nice find.


Ask yourself two questions:

1) Who do you want to look like?

2) Who is trying to sell me something, what are they trying to sell?


Yes, this has been discussed as well. From that thread: " Since these subjects were not exercise trained". Again, how does someone look passed this or gloss over it as insignificant? Second, how does anyone else simply not see this and disregard his "studies"?


For those interested, this is the thread that lead to this one:


what looks more impressive, going from 170-190 at 8% bodyfat or doing the same at 22% bodyfat?

one dude is gonna be doing pretty good, and the other will look like he doesn't work out.


Here is one rationalization for this theory:

A Training Philosophy For Solid Mass Gain by Kelly Baggett

  1. Maximizing Partitioning

A natural trainee can maximize environmental factors that affect his partitioning by training at the right frequency with the right type and dosage of training, eating enough food, sleeping enough, staying relatively stress free, and keeping his body composition within his ?optimum muscle building window? which, generally speaking, is between the range of 10-17% body-fat for most males and 12-20% for most females. At less then about 10% body-fat, levels of various anabolic hormones such as testosterone go to crap, (unless you were born at 5% body-fat). At the other end, anymore then 17% body-fat and sensitivity to various anabolic hormones goes down the drain.


(Special thanks to Kliplemet for posting this the other day, without which I would have never found this information.)


Dan Duchaine was one of the first to recommend that you not bulk after a certain bodyfat percentage. Lyle Mcdonald also suggests that at around 15% is the cut off. One of the reasons is that once you go higher, there are hormonal problems (leptin, insulin sensativity, etc) that start to take effect and shift towards fat gain. As far as studies, I'd have to ask, as I think he referred to a few, but don't quote me.

Does this apply to someone who is 6', 150 and 20% bf? Fuck if I know, but if that's where you're at, you got a lot wrong with you.


This information is interesting to read, but I don't think that one can draw any conclusions based on it. Maybe if one were to take the time to read the actual studies, that would make a difference. For example, what was the rate of fat gain? If I add 5 lbs of weight in a week or if I gain .5 lbs in a week, I think that the ratio of fat to lbm will be different. Right?

Also, your training routine will have an effect, too. What if I do 2 sets of 8 for bench as compared to a brutal EDT routine. Wouldn't my ratio of fat to lbm be affected?

So, what can we really take away from this?


That's retarded. Someone is doing something very wrong if they gain 20lbs and increase their body fat percentage that much. In fact, it would probably mean they forgot to work out.

The REALITY is, what is more impressive, bulking up over the course of 10 years along with periods of dieting back a little and going from 150lbs at maybe 11% to over 260lbs at about 15% body fat...
or staying near 8% body fat and only gaining 20lbs total body weight in ten years.

That is what people are really seeing. I have yet to see someone blow up while maintaining a percentage that low or match the growth someone sees from bulking up INTELLIGENTLY.

Also, I haven't seen anyone on this site recommend that someone at 22% body fat needs to gain more weight. Why use an extreme when nothing like that is being recommended by anyone?


That those studies involved sedentary people who didn't lift or exercise at all meaning it makes NO SENSE at all to relate it directly to serious weight trainers who are in the gym several days a week and who eat to specifically gain muscle mass.


I don't think you read what I meant. One dude starts at 8% bodyfat and stays there. The other dude starts at 22% and stays there.

both put on 20 lbs of overall weight.

The dude who started off with the lower bodyfat is going to look a hell of a lot better.

Drawing any more from that statement is just making brash assumptions.

Obviously if you're going from 8% to 22% bodyfat and only gaining 20 lbs, you did something pretty F'd up, but that's not what this thread is about. It's about starting points.

Am I saying that starting at a high % means your gains won't be as good? no. 20 lbs lean body mass is 20 lbs lbm no matter how you dish it out. It's just going to appear a hell of a lot nicer on someone with a leaner physique to begin with.

if it takes 10 years to put on 20 lbs, and that's the goal, someone needs to learn how to use a fucking fork.


My 2 cents:

Bulking at a higher body fat percentage is more difficult because of the psychological challenge. People will back off and start cutting because they see themselves gaining additional weight and getting "fatter." Starting at a lower bf % gives individuals more psychological flex room. It seems the physiological implications are hazy at this point.

I think a distinction needs to be made between bulking from a dieted down 7% body fat, that someone has held for a few weeks, vs. someone who is in the 7-8% range over the course of a few months. There may be physiological implications here (as in, the dieted down individual has his body in starvation mode and will be predisposed to fat gain) vs. the individual who has maintained a lean condition over a period of time.


I understand what you mean. I will still emphasize the point that I haven't seen anyone on this board tell someone who is over 22% body fat that they need to "bulk up".

I agree, but look at what we are seeing on this board. How many of these guys who are scared to lose an ab are actually gaining 20+lbs of lean body mass over the years they are on this board? I haven't seen one yet who was 8% body fat, stayed there, and gained anywhere near that much muscle.